Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Month In The Life: December 2020


It's the last day of 2020, and good riddance I say. That isn't to say that nothing good happened in 2020, there were definitely good things (one very good thing this month alone, which I've talked about below). But as a year, it's been a challenging one and I am very glad to put it in the rearview. I know that vaccines being out doesn't mean it's all over, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel now and if we just keep our heads down and push through we'll get there!

In Books...

  • The Long and Faraway Gone: On paper, this is the sort of mystery/thriller should have been more for me, as it has a strong focus on its two lead characters and doesn't hide information from the reader that the characters know to build up suspense. But I kept expecting the two storylines (a nurse tries to solve the mystery of what happened to the sister who disappeared when she was a child, and a PI investigating a harassment case digs into what happened when the movie theater he worked in as a teen was robbed and everyone besides him was killed) to converge, and there was some lazy plotting in how things wrapped up. 
  • Can't Even: Anne Helen Petersen is one of my favorite writers on the internet, and her article early last year about burnout among millennials felt like it put its finger on a problem I'd long knew about but never put my finger on. This book basically builds the piece out to book length, and while it's well-done and thoroughly-researched, it doesn't really feel like it says anything that different or more special than the original article. 
  • Brideshead Revisited: This seemed like a perfect book for me...I really like classics, and I'm really interested in the period between the World Wars. But in practice, this story about a young British man who gets caught up with an aristocratic Catholic family just never actually took off for me. I'm not sure exactly what it was trying to be about or what I was supposed to get out of it. It wasn't bad, just not actually good. 
  • Second Helpings: I loved the first book in the Jessica Darling series when I read it a few years ago, so was excited to dive into the second. For the most part, it worked for me...Jessica's humor remained lively and her story felt so familiar as someone who was a high school overachiever at the time the book takes place. But wow was there a LOT of slut-shaming in there. Having been an insecure teenage virgin at the same time, I know that this attitude was very commonplace, but reading it with today's eyes was very jarring. 
  • Men Explain Things To Me: This essay collection is grounded in the ways the world works to diminish and silence women, and while all the pieces kind of run into each other because of their similarities in tone, it's still very good and also infuriating. 
  • Overdressed: The idea that fast fashion (Target, Forever 21, H&M, etc) isn't really good is not a new one, but this book managed to still examine interesting angles about the way its proliferation has impacted the world for the worse. It's a little on the dry side, but it actually got me thinking about my clothes in a new way, so it was a worthwhile read. 
  • Mindhunter: Like basically everyone who has read/watched The Silence of the Lambs, I think criminal profiling is really fascinating. John Douglas was a pioneer in the field and this book details his conversations with killers and how he worked on then-active cases, which is super interesting. There are also autobiographical elements to the narrative, which I will be honest, I found much less compelling.


In Life...

  • My nephew was born: My sister and her husband welcomed their first child, a son. Since he's not my baby and info about him isn't really mine to share, I'll just note that everyone is doing well and it is an extreme bummer that COVID is happening right now because it is likely to be quite some time before I get to meet little T, but I am very excited to be an aunt!

One Thing:

I had more or less forgotten about Martin Shkreli until this truly insane article came out and if you have not yet been aware of it, I am jealous you get to experience it for the first time because it is BANANAS! I have so many questions about Christie, her motives, what her ex and friends/family really think, and how exactly this all happened. I've swung back and forth between feeling sorry for her, thinking she's a narcissist, thinking she's just as much of a manipulator as he's a fascinating story!

Gratuitous Pug Picture:

2020 Bonus Stats: Like I have for the past several years now, I bought the Rock Your Reading Tracker from Sarah's Book Shelves and got some interesting information out of it! I do my major statistics post on my yearly summary posts, which I put up on my birthday in October, but here are some cool stats that I was able to glean from Sarah's very useful tracker, which I highly recommend!

My number of pages read increased year-over-year (even as my book count didn't): I actually read one less book in 2020 than I did in 2019, but read 1,021 more pages! Obviously I went for longer books this year, with most of my reading still in the 300-400 page range but 25 were longer than 400 pages (and only 18 were shorter than 300).

I still read a lot more debuts than I think: I don't think of myself as someone who tends to especially enjoy a debut, but they made up more than a third of my reading this year (38%), as opposed to 29% last year. I would not have thought they'd be more than 20% either year since I do not set out to read debuts but here we are!

I didn't like my reading quite as much in 2020: My average rating for this year was a little under six stars this year, while it was between six and seven for 2019. If we look at books I rated at least 7/10, 53% of my reading last year hit that mark, while only 43% did this year, a 10% drop! I wonder if some of that is related to the "more debuts" thing? Some may also be related to struggling to connect with my reading at times during the pandemic.

I still read mostly backlist: At 83% both last year and this year, my fondness for a book that's already proven it will stand the test of time is well-established.

I enjoyed my book club reading more than I previously had: I didn't HATE anything I read for my book club this year, and rated a few books at least seven stars, which is a marked improvement. My book club is run by a local bookstore and has a moderator that chooses books for us, so I don't expect to love everything and appreciate the ways I sometimes get forced out of my comfort zone, but there was a point at which I was considering leaving the club based on the issues I'd had with the books we picked so I am really pleased to see the improvement here!


  1. That Martin Shkreli story was wild! So many details that made my jaw drop. I raised my eyebrow in particular at the details about Smythe's correspondence with Shkreli being a feature in the sentencing submissions and at the hearing and possibly - in his lawyer's opinion - adding up to 2 years to his sentence. The thing is people should know very well that all their correspondence while in prison is closely monitored? Not that Shkreli has ever behaved like someone who understood the, er, consequences from how his communications appear to the public or to the Court, since his bail being revoked pending sentencing was avoidable but for his repeated bad behavior.

    Congratulations on your new nephew! A few of my friends have new nieces or nephews, though the pandemic makes that tough for extended family to meet the new arrivals in the family.

    1. It's hard to imagine that travel will be even somewhat safely possible before the summertime, so I'm probably looking at June before I get to make it back to Michigan, which is a huge bummer. But at least we live in a world where video chatting is a thing, so I have gotten to see him and see my sister and brother-in-law as well! It's not quite the same, but it's a little less lonely.

      And I am STILL thinking about that article. I am just desperately curious about what (if any) communication she's had with him since the article came out, her ex-husband's perspective, how many other women he was many questions!